More than two decades ago, then-33-year-old Dan Price had a wife, two small children, a high-interest mortgage, and a stressful job as a photojournalist in Kentucky. He worried daily about money and the workaday grind.
“I told myself, ‘buck up and pay the bills,’” said Price. “This is just the way normal life is.”
Then he learned about what he calls “the simple life.” Price read Payne Hollow, a 1974 book about author Harlan Hubbard’s rejection of modernity and his primitive home on the shore of the Ohio River. Price’s marriage dissolved soon after, and the whole family moved to Oregon, where he grew up. Price opted to move alone into a tiny cabin in the woods, then a flophouse, then a teepee, and finally into an underground “Hobbit hole” on a horse pasture near a river, where he still lives. During the winter, he decamps to Hawaii to surf and avoid the harsh weather.
Price’s version of the simple life costs $5,000 a year, which he earns from publishing a wilderness zine and doing odd jobs around Joseph, his eastern Oregon town. “I like being able to do what I want to do,” said Price, who pays $100 a year for his land. “I don’t believe in houses or mortgages. Who in their right mind would spend their lifetime paying for a building they never get to spend time in because they are always working?”